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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The School Funding Dilema

This week saw many more ballot initiatives related to school funding in the area go down to defeat.  Some districts just can't seem to get any new funding passed and now face the prospects of possible state take over.

Meanwhile in Fort Thomas we keep chugging along, churning out Blue Ribbon awards, future college grads, and NFL stars.  While Kentucky school funding is quite different than Ohio (with its own set of challenges I might add) we don't seem to be in the annual fiscal crisis that many schools in the area seem to be in.

Yes, we have higher taxes but there is no loud cries for tax cuts.  We line up for every fundraiser that the Education Foundation throws and we do so gladly.  So why are we so different?  We clearly have a respect and appreciation for education that transcends an extra $100 / year in property taxes.

With all that being said, Fort Thomas has another built-in advantage that most other districts do not have the luxury of - no need for school transportation.  Fort Thomas gets the added benefit of being an older neighborhood that was planned prior to the urban sprawl seen in communities like Mason and West Chester.  This is beneficial in a lot of ways but one of the biggest as it relates to school funding and budgets is the ability to avoid the costly requirement of providing busing to our children.  

Fort Thomas is a safe community that is densely populated with schools spread out appropriately to provide a short, safe walk for our children.  A look at other districts show that it is not uncommon for a school district to spend up to $650/student on transportation.  On average a district can use about 5 -7% of their annual operating budget on transportation and that is only going up as gas prices increase above the $4/gallon mark.  That percentage applied to Fort Thomas' annual operating budget would be an extra $1 million per year.  No wonder Lakota schools have scaled back their transportation with more cuts looming.